Energy project aims to make Games greener

The Kentucky Horse Park is undergoing a $5.7 million energy overhaul that officials say will save more than half a million dollars a year. The savings will be guaranteed by the energy company that is the park's partner.

The centerpiece of the project is the biomass gasification plant that will turn 3,450 tons of horse muck produced at the park every year into gas that can generate about 1.6 megawatts of electricity. As Finance Secretary Jonathan Miller said at Monday's news conference: "I cannot imagine that even after 42 years as a Lexingtonian that I would be this excited about horse manure."

The plan also includes a solar-powered trash compactor, new sewer lines and filtration upgrades, solar-powered lighting of the covered arena and solar-powered water heaters at the campground. It also will provide a new purification system for the campground swimming pool, which cuts down on chemicals and pumping costs.

At a news conference Monday, first lady Jane Beshear said the improvements would be made in time for the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, which will be held at the park next fall, putting it "in the forefront of environmental leadership in the state of Kentucky."

The annual savings are estimated to be $582,000.

The deal was funded with federal stimulus dollars and low-interest loans from the Kentucky Infrastructure Authority. The Horse Park then signed a contract with an energy services company that guarantees a certain energy cost savings. Such efforts are becoming increasingly common around the country.

Ameresco, a national energy savings company that has an office in Louisville, will install all the upgrades and improvements. If the changes do not in fact save $582,000 a year, Ameresco will make up the difference. Otherwise, the Horse Park will use those savings to pay off the loan.

John Nicholson, executive director of the Horse Park, said that after the loan is paid off, the savings can be used to make further improvements at the park.

Energy-saving contracts are being used more throughout Kentucky and the country. According to the National Association of Energy Service Companies, there are between $5 billion and $6 billion worth of energy-service-company projects going on in the United States, the vast majority with municipal entities such as local governments, universities and hospitals.

Most energy service companies develop, design, arrange financing and install energy-efficient projects and guarantee the estimated savings.

The Finance Cabinet is overseeing 26 projects statewide with energy savings companies. In addition, the University of Kentucky and the Bluegrass Community and Technical College have ongoing projects to cut energy costs.

"This is very exciting and will live on long beyond the World Games," said Nicholson.

The Horse Park's new projects will also meld with ongoing efforts to make the World Games more "green," said Carol Hanley, associate director of the Tracy Farmer Institute for Sustainability and the Environment at UK. Hanley is heading the environmental committee for the Games.

Top among the efforts will be to install recycling containers around the park and to encourage vendors to use recyclable materials.

In addition, new landscaping will feature native plants that can better withstand drought and need far less watering. Food providers also will be encouraged to find local food suppliers to cut down on the Games' carbon footprint.

"We want to be as green as possible," Hanley said.